Monday, May 11, 2015


As I have said, I've only read the first chapter or so of "Rebirth" the musings of a Baltimore priest and his pastoral partner on there understanding of the problems of parish life and its solutions.

I've only scanned the rest of the book, so I won't comment on it until I have finished reading the book other than to say that I think their "rebirth" approach is just as wrong as their initial approach to parish life and ministry which they now disavow.

But they do name some of the problems of parishes since 1968 which was brought about by significant forces in and outside of the Church. I'll list some of those:

1. Vatican II changes brought a new paradigm to Catholics who thought the Church couldn't change as was commonly taught prior to Vatican II. With the most profound changes in the Liturgy and those spouting an ideology that the doctrine and dogmas of the Mass had changed too, Catholics thought everything could change in the Church including defined doctrines and dogmas. When it becomes obvious that defined dogmas and doctrines won't change, these once strong Catholics, weakened by a false understanding of Vatican II will leave the Church for Protestant denominations, no denominations or to become secular humanists.

2. In 1968 Humanae Vitae was the beginning of a reinforcement that doctrines and dogmas would not change and this outrages those who were duped into thinking dogmas and doctrines would change.

3. Anti-authority rebellion inspired Catholics to apply the secular rebellion to Church rebellion and increased the decline of Catholicism within those who approached the Church and her teachings and discipline with this mentality.

4. With silly creativity a part of the implementation of the new Roman Missal in the late 60's and 1970's which led to sacrileges of all  kinds during Mass and the loss of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the loss of belief in the Mass as a Holy Sacrifice, a meal of bread and wine shared by giddy friends overpowered the theology of the Mass that led many of the once Faithful to cease attending Mass.  What was about 90% attendance rate and active participation in the Mass prior to the Council is not about an 11% attendance rate at Mass in some major northeast dioceses. 

5. The decline in Mass attendance was preceded by the decline in Confession attendance, an almost collapse of attendance by the 1970's. The Sacrament of Penance was irrelevant to the spiritual lives of once staunch Catholics who use the Sacrament frequently and would never receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. But the loss of use of Confession was coupled with the loss in the belief of sin and how this damages our salvation. Sacrilegious Communions become all to common.

6. In this same period where so many Catholic embraced artificial birth control, living together prior to a marriage and sexual promiscuity, divorce increased tremendously especially with relaxation of civil laws that prohibited quick divorces. Today there is little difference between Catholics and others in terms of the percentage of divorce.

7. Today Catholics totally imbued with the sterility of sex between heterosexuals due to artificial contraception now accept the sterility of sex between homosexuals and they do not think that chastity is a virtue or modesty. Same sex marriage is accepted even though completed opposed by Christ and the official teachings of the Church.

So what does a parish do when so many Catholics have lost their Faith? Do we cater to the loss of faith and develop parish life that simply becomes a place where people can get to know one another, have common activities and do some good in the world?

Rather shouldn't priests and parishes do the following:

1. recovery of the Baptismal, Confirmational and Eucharistic identity of Catholics?

2. recover the reverence Catholics once had at Mass, an increased belief in transubstantiation that leads to a recovery of awe and reverence, a rediscovery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that brings sobriety and solemnity to the Mass rather than a giddy, rowdy and superficial attitude about the horizontal aspects of the Mass particularly in terms of fellowship and meal aspects of the Mass. (A recovery of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as a part of the Sunday Mass schedule will assist in this recovery of traditional reverence)?

3. a recovery of popular devotions and piety as Pope Francis is leading the Church?

4. A recovery of the Sacrament of Penance and Confession coupled with a recovery of what constitutes sin, Original, venial and mortal and the necessity to be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion?

5. A recovery of strong Catholic Sacramental marriages with large families nurtured not by materialism but family values and Catholic sacramental practices in the home--the family as the Church in miniature?

Is it possible to do these sorts of things above or impossible because it seems so daunting and pre-Vatican II?

Or is it easier to get people doing all kinds of churchy, horizontal things, like opening cafes that provide coffee and donuts after all Masses and people doing this, that and the other and in an aimless non-theological, non doctrinal, non dogmatic, non canonical way? A plastic Catholicism nurturing the Protestant work ethic in place of authentic Catholicism.

I ask! You answer!


Julian Barkin said...

You've pretty much said it yourself father. Most people are too lazy to do the TRUE work of the Lord, for the Labourers are few.

I also add on top of it that I don't think much is possible in our post Vatican II church due to your generation of clergy being in charge (60's - mid 80's). You are an exception but not the norm. I agree with Fr Z that the biological solution must take place for a fair (not great) chance of renewal. At least there will be less clergymen and lay leaders who have drunken the kool-aid of your generation. Honestly once I woke up to that realization, my outlook of the Catholic Church became more grim, knowing politics will play a big factor in halting most real semblance of the reform of the reform.

dbonneville said...

Fr. McD, I would love to hear a little more regarding the book illustration at the top of your article :)

JusadBellum said...

Running the risk of being a broken record, but we laity must recover the zeal of our ancestors in the faith who knew that the encounter with the Risen Lord really does give us power to heal, to exorcise and to preach the Gospel in our lives, in our professions, socially, and civilly. There may be a separation between "Church" and State but there is no such division between citizen and State and citizens who are Catholic have an obligation and right to make ourselves heard.

It only takes relatively few people to turn the tide. But we must be utterly convinced that the Lord is the Judge of History, that the Lord is who gives eternal life and fear rather Him who can destroy our souls than those who merely threaten our bodies.

Dialogue said...

If you're referring to the same book, it's "Rebuilt", rather than "Rebirth".

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

1. Have you any evidence to support your claim that, "With the most profound changes in the Liturgy and those spouting an ideology that the doctrine and dogmas of the Mass had changed too, Catholics thought everything could change in the Church including defined doctrines and dogmas."

3. Many would say that much of the "rebellion" against secular authority was long overdue and very much warranted. Not a few would say that questioning the authority of the Church in matters non-Dogmatic was also warranted.

4. Have you any evidence to support the claim that loss of belief in the Real Presence is connected to the "silliness" you mention?

5. I don't think people lost a belief in sin, but came to recognize that there may have been too many Guilt Propelled races to the confession box with insufficient and immature understanding of sin.

6. Where is the outcry of orthodox "Christians" against the current divorce/remarriage laws. People worry about what "Gay Marriage" will do to the "Sanctity of Marriage" but raise little ruckus about that Straight Divorce/Serial Marriage have already done.

7. "Sterile" is the wrong word to use describing gay sex. "Unfruitful" is a better choice

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI your naive questions betray two things, you are younger than me and simply don't know the facts from experience and secondly you went to and lived in the cocoon of that ultra conservative seminary called the Mount in Emmitsburg. You seem to spend more time repudiating its inferior academic formation cocooned in ultra conservative ignorance.

JusadBellum said...

It may be useful to return to a blog I might have mentioned before: which is affiliated with CARA, the Georgetown based Catholic research group.

They have tracked Mass attendance and confession rates over the past 50 years and their data on a decline in both is well documented.

Now I'll admit there is little systemic research done to show the long term impact of orthodox/conservative/traditionalist Catholic liturgies etc. but many have tried to paint a picture that the average family size is larger and the average frequency of Mass and confession is also higher. I'm still looking for the direct data.

The indirect data comes from surveys of the annual group of ordinands and what they have to say contributed to their vocations and it seems that public and personal piety (Eucharistic adoration, rosary, being pro-life, involved in WYDs and Franciscan U of Steubenville retreats) all play a growing role in the actual new priests we have.


So it would seem more likely than not that what passes for "non-progressive" Catholicism produces quantifiable fruits whereas the 1970's era "progressive" Catholicism is literally dying out or notable in the absence of vocations.

3. Fr. K's insights I think are well to take into consideration but they cut both ways: is it a dogma of the faith that we have a "preferential option for the poor" and this is understood PRIMARILY as merely a political position - seeking centralized government welfare vs. personal and private initiative?

What about the position on gun control and nuclear disarmament? Are those positions likewise non-dogmatic and questionable?

4. I think it's probably a given that any Catholic who is pro-choice is also a denier in the Real Presence. After all, if they refuse to accept the hidden reality of a human in the womb, they're probably OK with denying the hidden reality of Jesus under the species of bread and wine.

5. All things being equal, scrupulosity leads to less toxicity and death as moral laxity does. And where is the sign that our contemporary majorities of Catholics (over 60% of whom don't go to Sunday Mass) are "mature" in their understanding of sin? I'd say we just switched one immaturity for another.

6. There is a HUGE hue and cry against heterosexual divorce in the conservative/traditional circles. But asking why we've not mobilized against it when the juggernaut of 'gay-marriage' is looming on the horizon is a bit rich.... given that orthodox/traditional/conservative Catholics don't run the Church and don't run society and are increasingly under pressure from both institutional Catholic sources and anti-Catholic secular ones... expecting us to mount a successful socio-political counter assault on no-fault divorce is like asking why the unarmed and disorganized German Catholic Church didn't overthrow the Germany army and Hitler. It wasn't for a lack of will, but for a lack of means.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

First, the correct structure is "You are younger than I," not "You are younger than me."

Second, if there are facts, present them. Anecdotes aren't facts.

Mt St Mary's, where you never attended, so your opinion is based on anecdotes, was hardly ultra-conservative in the years I was there. It was completely middle-of-the-road. The academic formation was more than adequate, and I have happily been able to build on that education since.

So, I take it, your non-answer indicates that no real answer is coming...?

Dialogue said...

Dear Father Kavanaugh,

In 1964, Pope Paul VI said:

"The Church itself is being engulfed and shaken by this tidal wave of change, for however much men may be committed to the Church, they are deeply affected by the climate of the world. They run the risk of becoming confused, bewildered and alarmed, and this is a state of affairs which strikes at the very roots of the Church. It drives many people to adopt the most outlandish views. They imagine that the Church should abdicate its proper role, and adopt an entirely new and unprecedented mode of existence. Modernism might be cited as an example. This is an error which is still making its appearance under various new guises, wholly inconsistent with any genuine religious expression. It is surely an attempt on the part of secular philosophies and secular trends to vitiate the true teaching and discipline of the Church of Christ."

Flavius Hesychius said...

First, the correct structure is "You are younger than I," not "You are younger than me."

Apparently not.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jus - The numbers we know. The question is "What has caused the decline?"

Many assert that the cause came from 1) the switch from Latin to the vernacular at mass, 2) the loss of "traditional" non-sacramental devotions like novenas, 40 Hours, etc, 3) the introduction of laity in the sanctuary which has led, it is claimed, to "confusion" over the role of the priest, among other reasons.

Hence, the "solution" offered is 1) bring back Latin, 2) bring back devotions, 3) get laity out of the sanctuary, etc.

All of these are matters within the confines of the Church - and many within the confines of the church building. But there is little or no evidence to suggest a link between these changes and the decline. There is certainly a coincidental relationship, but many, including yours truly, don't believe there is a causal relationship.

I think it is too simplistic to attribute the declines to "churchy" causes without taking into account the massive cultural changes in Western society since the end of the 1950's. If the declines had happened only in the Catholic Church, I'd say you would have a pretty strong case for a causal link.

But the declines have been society-wide. And they have been seen not only in denominations, but in all sorts of community organizations like the Jaycees, the Rotary, the Lions Clubs, etc. What links these together is not the loss of Latin or maniples, but the loss of a sense of community. Without a sense of community one cannot develop a sense of responsibility to a community. Without a sense of responsibility to a community one cannot accept a challenge to serve a community.

One of the most telling moments - anecdotal to be sure - that I experienced regarding the marriage/divorce/marriage issue was at a Tea Party rally I attended in Augusta, GA. The speaker was railing against the Department of Education and federal control of education and on and on. He was cheered loudly.

When he said that the reason he knew so much about what kids really need in public schools was that his three wives - THREE WIVES - had all been public school teachers. No one raised any objection to his version of serial monogamy. I suspect this is because many (most?) of them were in the same matrimonial boat.

Anonymous said...

How do you know, Father Kavanaugh, his first two wives aren't dead? Who are we to judge?

CPT gobshite said...

Jusad, I have read a great deal of your "preaching". Do you also have "power to heal, to exorcise"?

Anonymous said...

@Father Michael J. Kavanaugh, May 11, 2015, 3:49PM:

"What links these together is not the loss of Latin or maniples, but the loss of a sense of community."

When significant changes are made, for instance to liturgical and devotional practices, with little or no explanation as was done after Vatican II, you undermine the existing sense of community. A community is based on certain patterns and shared values. Undermine those patterns and shared values, and you undermine community.

Paul said...

Christ's Church is not here for our convenience.

But, the world makes every effort to make Christ's Church be inconvenient.

rcg said...

Reads to *me* as if the Tea Party person was telling a Vaudville joke. Did you notice anyone laughing?

John Nolan said...

'There is certainly a coincidental relationship but many ... don't believe there is a causal relationship'.

Many, however, do - and they include some very prominent figures including Benedict XVI. It is bad historical methodology to reject a possible cause for purely ideological reasons.

There are undoubtedly many other factors in play, and one could argue that the current state of the liturgy in most places is more a symptom of decline than a cause; but one cannot simply leave it out of the equation.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I am not rejecting the suggested causal relationship for ideological reasons.

I am rejecting it because no evidence has been offered to show that there is such a relationship.

John Nolan said...


The evidence is the result. No-one can prove a causal link by citing evidence to that effect - he can only infer that result X,Y and Z was a result of causes A,B and C.

If you refuse to accept, on ideological grounds, that (say) cause C could not possibly have any effect on result X,Y and Z then you are prejudging the argument.

In fact, you do just this constantly. Any argument that gets in your way is based on 'anecdotal' evidence whereas you are quite happy to cite 'anecdotal' evidence when castigating pre-Conciliar Catholicism (which, let's face it, amounts to 1,950 years out of 2,000).

Where is your evidence that priests talked 'gibberish' instead of Latin and 'skipped' (a favourite word of yours) the prescribed vestments? Over to you.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - No, the evidence is not the result. This is precisely the logical error of "post hoc ergo proper hoc."

The cock crowed and then the sun rose. Therefore the cock's crowing caused the sun to rise.

Now, if "the evidence is the result," then the cock is to be congratulated mightily.

I will GLADLY believe in a causal relationship when evidence, not anecdotes, are offered. C most certainly have an effect on X Y or Z, but without evidence the claim is meaningless.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - And when I mention priests who spoke gibberish or skipped the maniple with ruthless abandon, I'm not asking or suggesting that you do anything. They're anecdotal and meant to be so.

When you say "The use if Latin ended and people stopped going g to mass," you are suggesting that Latinbe restored because this will bring people back to mass.

Big difference. I offer anecdotes as anecdotes. You offer anecdotes as reasons to make substantial changes in the way mass is celebrated. More than that, you want to change (reversion to hierarchical ecclesiology) not only the language of mass, but the way in which the Church thinks about and understands the mass.

Again, big difference.

John Nolan said...


The problem is, I never said 'the use of Latin ended and people stopped going to Mass'. That would indeed be a case of 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' and a simplistic assertion to boot.

I do maintain that the liturgical revolution of the 1960s cannot be ruled out as one of the causes of the present crisis.

You now bluster your way into absurdity. I don't want to change the language of the Mass - why should I, since I attend both forms in Latin? Why should I want a change in the way Mass is celebrated when wherever I go it is celebrated according to the book?

As for wanting to change the way the Church 'thinks about and understands the Mass', firstly I do not have the authority to do so and secondly I accept what the Church teaches regarding the Mass as set out in the preamble to the GIRM, particularly para 2 which apart from anything else endorses what was defined by Trent. I assume you would concur.

You should realize by now that you are dealing with an educated and informed Catholic layman who by profession knows more of history than you do. Your attempts at put-downs simply make you look foolish. Kindly desist.

John Nolan said...


Also, there is a delicious irony in that those who deplore the wholesale change from Latin to a babel of vulgar tongues in a little over three years (1964-1967) with rushed and (often deliberate) inaccuracies in translation are now castigated by progressives like yourself as those who want to make 'substantial' changes.

You're not the most subtle of thinkers but surely even you can appreciate this. And since you are so keen on 'evidence' perhaps you would care to cite the official document that states that the ecclesiology/theology underpinning the Mass underwent a paradigm shift in the 1960s. Opinions of progressive Jesuits won't do, I'm afraid.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - Kindly desist from thinking that those who do not share your tastes are philistines. While you are at it, kindly desist from asserting that your knowledge is superior to the knowledge of others, especially those who happen to disagree with your conclusions. You should know by now you are dealing with an educated and informed cleric.

The argument is made - NOTE: I am not saying that you make the argument - that liturgical changes have driven the "faithful" out of the Church. I have said, "Show me the evidence." No, we cannot dismiss it as a possibility, but, in the absence of evidence, not anecdotes, we cannot say that it is a reason to revert to the ways of the past as a solution for the problems we face now.

I have repeatedly cited documents which speak to the changes in the dominant ecclesiology under which the Church operates. Surely an educated and informed Catholic layman has the ability to read them and does not require multiple reminders.

Or, the educated and informed Catholic layman can simply overlook of dismiss those references because he does not care to acknowledge them.

Like it or not, we live in an age when changes come quickly - far more quickly than they did 100 years ago. That a change happens overnight is not a sign that the change is wrong, that it is harmful, or that it is ill-conceived. There is not reason to assume that, in 1278, changes happened at a glacial pace, that that same pace has to be how we operate today. There is nothing in the nature of the Church that requires taking 500 years to make a change, even a substantial one, in the manner in which mass is celebrated.

John Nolan said...


More bluff, bluster and your usual
trick of attributing to others what you would like them to have said, rather than what they actually said. Any quotes I have attributed to you I have quoted verbatim; yet you attribute to me not only opinions which I do not hold, but put in quotation marks things that I never said.

This is disgraceful on more than one account. You have not, to my knowledge, referenced any official document to the effect that the theology/ecclesiology of the Mass has changed - in fact every official document both from the Council and afterwards maintains the opposite.

I don't know how you celebrate Mass and quite frankly I don't care. I remember asking you (two years ago?) to publish your music programme for Easter Sunday but you did not respond.

So by all means stick to your rollercoaster of giddy and rapid change; continue to believe that Latin is useless and that you represent the future; and one hopes that eventually you will disappear up your own arse. The sooner, the better.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JOhn - Unless my post reads "John Nolan said...." then you are wrong to think that I am quoting you.

Quotation marks in a post that begins "John Nolan - " can, and usually are, indications that I am quoting a previous post, not you.

That you have missed references to documents about ecclesiology is not my concern, nor do I care. It is easy to say "You have not, to my knowledge, referenced any official document..." when, in fact, you've simply overlooked them or, based on your superior (sniff sniff) education, decided a priori that it would be below your self-established dignity to read and consider them.

"Disappear up your own arse..." My my. Is that how "educated and informed" Catholic laymen talk these days? Sounds to me more like the cockney guttersnipe philistine variety of Catholic layman to me. Can I buy a flowah off ya, guvnah?

John Nolan said...


Did no one tell you that repetition as a literary device can easily be overused? (in your case it most certainly is).

Or that attempts to evade answering perfectly straightforward questions can be easily hidden?

I don't often use colloquialisms but in your case it is appropriate and judging by your response has had the desired effect.

Have the intellectual honesty to answer direct questions, not to put words into others' mouths, reinforce your opinions with documentary evidence (and since this involves the Mass or mass as you choose to write it, it is not an insignificant matter).

You and your ilk have painted yourselves into a corner and the tone of your language is becoming more desperate. You can't quote authoritative sources for your assumptions since none exist.

No-one 'reverts' to a liturgical form (the EF) which is juridicallly
established as being current; no-one 'reverts' to Latin which is the only definitive form, the Urtext if you like of even the Novus Ordo, everything else being merely a translation.

I might be inclined to take you seriously if you were prepared to answer points that I raise without resorting to bluff and bluster which merely draws attention to the fact that you don't have a cogent reply.

Until then, that I regard you as a buffoon should come as no surprise.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John Nolan - That you regard me as a buffoon is as worthless as a teat on a bullfrog, except that it allows you to feel oh, so superior to yet another person you consider to be a philistine.

The "effect" of your comment is entirely in your own mind, which is as it should be. Your brand of snobbery is a common self-defense mechanism, and your need to trumpet your "education" is telling.

So, since you choose to overlook the references I have made to documents regarding the evolution of the Church's ecclesiology, there's not much more for me to add to the present discussion.

John Nolan said...

Actually, Fr K, it is considered bad form to 'trumpet' one's academic qualifications, which is why I don't do so.

I actually read your posts carefully, and have yet to encounter a reference to an authoritative source which might confirm your oft-stated opinion that the theology/ecclesiology of the Mass has changed. You just seem to take for granted that it has.

This is why debate with you is fruitless; you rail against my so-called snobbery which makes you sound like a provincial redneck with an inferiority complex. You are given the opportunity to cite evidence but refuse to do so on the grounds that you have done so already (which is palpably false).